Scanning Negatives

everybody my name is Ted Forbes and welcome back to another episode of the art of photography and we’re going to do a couple episodes now on process and I want to take you through the process of taking a negative and bringing it to life as a print and there’s obviously two ways you can do this and I want to explore both I want to look at the differences in them and I think this is something that you have hinted at and people have asked me about I think it would be really cool to cover both these processes what we’re going to do is two things we’re going to do one tract which is a darkroom print so what we’re going to do is use the enlarger the mobile darkroom all those things that we’re going to enlarge these negatives the other process that I want to look at is the digital process and we’re going to scan the negatives and we’re going to see what the differences are and compare the final results and so you know what is the difference of being able to bring an image into Photoshop and manipulate it or Lightroom or whatever your software of choice is versus doing this the traditional way in the darkroom is a print and we’ll compare those and we’ll talk about them some just to give you a little hint of where we started on this I’ve talked about this a lot in the last two episodes we did one on medium format and we did another one on toning and in the toning episode you saw that I use these little tiny prints and I will talk about the idea behind these initially what I wanted to do was do a series of botanicals or flowers that were shot basically on a white background to create a sense of simplicity since of minimalism since a beauty and really be able to play with the tonality that comes out in the flower and originally the idea is that it was just going to do contact prints and they would be these little tiny prints that would work with and I would like to explore the possibility of blowing these up and working with them and manipulating them and maybe enhancing them somewhat so that’s what we’re going to be working with and I shot these obviously on a white background so the process that went into these is literally I did use a flash with an umbrella just to give it a nice diffused look and I used my Hasselblad camera on this and the reason was is I wanted something where I could really control the exposure well because I think it’s important to retain some of the texture in some of the tonality that you have within the flower against this white background I also wanted the sharpness that it gives you and so anyway one of the things I did on here is I used a close-up filter the reason I used a close-up filter was not for a macro thing but I just needed the flower or film or the frame I’m working with medium formats so that’s if you don’t have a way to do that it’s not as big of an issue because you can in bigger than you can with 35 mil but that’s what I went with on that now the other thing I used as I mentioned we used a just a white sheet of art board on the back it’s a non reflective but it’s a board stable and so I put that behind the image measured the exposure off because I wanted that to go ahead and go white so that can blow out and really the the important part was the flower that I was shooting I used to flash for this and I used a sync cable because this is rather old-school technology now the reason I’m telling you this is I made a pretty big mistake when I was shooting there is a little switch on here for the flash sync and this is a very old lens that’s on here and these older lenses offered two options for flash syncing one of them is still usable today with the modern technology that we have and the other was designed for older flashbulb types of things and with flash bulbs because they were so bright and rather unruly the camera was basically designed to when the shutter went off was just to delay just a little bit to not get the intensity of the light when it first came out and to kind of operate off of once the bulb starts cooling down and you know when the light goes down a little bit so unfortunately on this lens the little indicators of what setting you’re on have pretty much rubbed offs and so I shot the first roll of film on the wrong flash setting so I was using this older flash bulb setting and my pictures came out too dark now the reason I’m telling you this is obviously you make the correction shoot another roll of film which I did so the second one came out correctly but when I made a contact sheet of the first one there was some pretty interesting stuff that came up and I think I have some images that are actually they have a different field and what I intended them to be originally but I think they’re workable and I want to use those to try to get something out of it and show you those when we get to it and I think that’s kind of cool because what we could do is hopefully make them take a mistake and turn it into something that was unintentional but still interesting you know based on you know the stake that I made essentially and so what we’re going to do is we’re going to do two tracks on this we’re going to deal with the analog side and the digital side and what we want to talk about today is we’re going to scan these into the computer and I’m going to show you my process on that and then I’m also going to make show you how to make the contact sheet in the darkroom and then what we’ll do is we’re going to spread this out so the next couple shows what we’re going to do is explore both those tracks so when you’re enlarging in the darkroom what kinds of tools what kinds of options do you have and then also on the computers what are your options and we’ll compare the prints when we’re done so anyway let’s get started right now so come on over the computer and let’s talk about scanning images okay so anytime you’re dealing with negatives and this holds true whether you’re on the enlarger or whether you’re working digitally is dust tends to be there just kind of magnets for it and so the first thing I do is I get these just dry dust wipes and I will go ahead and clean everything I’ve got even if it appears clean and the reason is is because all it takes is one two specks of dust and then you have to spend time cloning those out or using a healing tool in Photoshop or something like that so that the first thing I will

do is clean both the carrier and go ahead and open up the scanner and I will clean that out too I will probably also hit it with some air you can buy cans of air and just make sure all the dust is off and you know sometimes it’s not always easy to see but it’s you know like I said you can clean them up later but it’s just very time-consuming you’ll still have to clean them up dust will inevitably make its way on there but that’s the first thing I do before I start scanning okay so when everything is clean it’s really quite an easy what you’re going to do is simply put your film into the negative carrier the holder and go ahead and put that on the scanner we’re going to close the lid and we’re ready to go here okay the scanner that I’m using on this is actually an Epson 4870 which is not current by any stretch of the imagination there are better scares you can get now but I’ve noticed that even for what I do this is still good enough it gets enough to ality it’s sharp enough it depends what you’re doing now we are talking about medium format film and up and I think for 35 millimeter it’s a little bit different I think you would notice a difference in the quality of a scanner in that level but you know what it does is essentially the absence software which is pretty crude as well and we’re just trying to get this good enough to do deal with I typically turn off all the auto functions I turn off sharpening I want to be able to do almost this imposts I just need a clean scan to start with and that’s fairly important so we’re going to do is I just scan what was on the bed this makes a contact sheet and we’re simply going to draw a little box around here to get our scan and sometimes I go ahead and make these a little bit bigger than the image and some of the black in as well and you’re going to notice on here and depending on what software would scanner all that you’re using the auto functions are usually pretty bad on here and it also depends on the quality of your negative so the first thing I’m going to do is I’m going to go ahead and bring up the levels here and I’m going to go ahead and play with these now what I want to do is I’m going to bring the highlights back a little bit or you can bring them up in this case I want to bring the shadows back because what it’s looking for its black blacks white whites and for whatever reason this software just does a really weird janky job of this and so you’ll notice too that the scanner really picks up a lot of time out of here because I am getting some shadows back here on this background but I think this is probably just about where I want it I can manipulate those more when we get into Photoshop or Lightroom and I’m going to go ahead close that and I’m going to set the DPI on this I’m going to scan it the grayscale and the DPI I’m going to use 2400 on here this will give me a big enough print to work with what we’re doing obviously if you’re going to go really really really big and test limits the resolution you would go higher but I think 2400 dots per inch is fine in this case I’m gonna go ahead and say scan and it is going to we’re going to put this on the desktop let’s save it rename it a little bit and we’ll save it as a tiff file I’m going to say ok and it’s going to go ahead and work its magic and we’ll bring the scan open as soon as it’s done ok so before we get cooking here on post-production I want to talk a little bit about my philosophy as a photographer towards this in my attitude towards post-production I disclaimer right up front this is my personal feeling in an opinion and it is not right for everyone I understand and people like to work differently but personally the things that make a photograph beautiful to me are the the moment of the capture you know we talk about the decisive moment especially when you’re shooting people in this case it was flowers but what I was going for was something organic something very pure something very beautiful minimalist background I wanted this organic s-shape in here and I want the tones of this Lily to speak and so generally speaking I don’t like to do a ton of post-production post-production for me is not the time to without a paintbrush in the way come and be an artist it’s the time to just come in and figure out what you need to do to enhance this to get it you know ready for print basically and what you want it to look like in the end so I did mention earlier that I did scan this a little bit flat and I always do that because it’s easier just to add that back in post and so we will do is do that and I’m going to create a new adjustment layer over here on the layers palette basic stuff I’m going to add a curves layer if you’ve never worked with a curves layer before basically what this does is it it affects the tones on the layers underneath where this is an adjustment layer here so when you open it up you’re given a histogram and you have this diagonal line that runs the length of the histogram pretty easy to note that the down here if I move this point this is affecting the lows so if I look at the shadows they start getting darker and darker and this is kind of some interesting look going on in here although it gets really pixely and eventually goes to a silhouette and then the same with the highlights up here where if I just move this point of course you can move it anywhere in this box keeping it on the top line I’m moving it and I blow out my highlights until it becomes a white image so what you can do is you can add points by clicking in this line if I just click a line in the middle and drag it adds a point and it brings the mid-tones down to where they’re darker or I can raise the mid-tones to where they’re brighter so what I’m going to do here is I’m going to show you how to do what’s called an s-curve if I take this point I’m going to make it the upper mids to highs I’m gonna bring that up just a little bit I’m going to add a second point by clicking on this line and we’re

going to drag that down and so what you end up was let’s exaggerate so you can see something it looks like the letter asks basically an s-curve is typically what this is called it adds contrast to the image so bring this down at my low lows in there and kind of move this around and dial it in visually and you start to see that I am indeed affecting the tonality of the lily in the middle because this is where the large vast majority of our gray tones are it looks pretty good I like that and if I click the layer on and off you can see that we went from something very flat to something that was high contrast consequently you can do the opposite of an s-curve where you do reverse s-curve and it makes things more flat and I’ll just simulate that for you there and look we lost all the mid-tones and it really is kind of dull in there so let’s go back to the s-curve and I feel really good about those being pretty low and you sping in the middle a little bit and so we start to get a little bit of life and a little bit of contrast going and real bringing out some of the tones inside the lily here the other thing I might do just to make sure that when this prints this white background is white white I’m just going to bring my highs over just a little bit to ensure that they’re blown out and we’re going to do that didn’t change the look too much and that’s kind of what I was going for with this you know something that almost had kind of a mechanical quality to it that you don’t see in real life I mean the kind of contrast but that’s what that’s what I wanted to get another thing you can do on this let’s uh I’m going to zoom in here and I’m going to show you the technique I like to use for burning and dodging and it’s really easy you can use the Barna dodge tool there there but let me show you what I like to do I used to like to use the paintbrush tool I’m going to create a new layer we’re simply going to grab the brush tool here and so I can paint right so if I start painting and it’s spray paints black across the middle of the image let’s undo that what I’m going to do is on this layer I’m going to create an adjustment or we’re going to actually come in and knock this out so we are going to change the way this layer behaves from normal to soft light now watch what happens when I paint with the black just watching these mid-tones what this starts doing is this starts affecting the darker areas but notice that it didn’t bleed into the white and it’s not like you want to use an adjustment layer out like this it’s not like when I’m painting over the top so what I’m effectively doing is burning in some of these darker areas if I switch over to the color white and paint you’ll notice that I start affecting the lighter areas and the way the light hits it now let me undo some of those it probably is best to do two different layers for this because you’ll want to be able to massage them on and off but anyway that is indeed how this works and if I turn that on and off you can see that I really brought out probably two intensely some of the shadows in in the lily here the other thing you could do too is let’s say that’s just too intense you can dial back the opacity on that somewhat too so I can just kind of sit it somewhere in the middle and make it a very subtle effect so anyway so here’s our beginning image and I just went from that to just bringing it out a little bit and that’s what we’re going for so that’s basically what I’m gonna do on that first image now the second image probably is going to require a little more finesse and a little more work and the reason is the first thing I’m gonna do is hit that curves layer but this white flower is a little dull and I want to bring that out there’s a couple ways we could do that so the first thing let’s do is let’s hit the curves layer and let’s go ahead and bring up the highs a little bit and we’ll do the s-curve once again it doesn’t look too bad so we’re bringing out some of that contrast this is the same same s-curve I had before and I don’t really care about the whites being perfectly white I don’t want to blow them out too much that’s why I’m not doing auto on any of these you could also bring the shadows in to intensify them and I really don’t like that so we don’t have any pure blacks it’s not the end of the world that’s a little bit better start on this image I think the second thing I might do is we could actually light this flower in the middle so I’m going to show you a little dirty trick that I use sometimes let’s grab the elliptical marquee we’re going to create a selection around that white flower there and what I’m going to do is create a new layer and we’re going to do a solid fill of white there let’s deselect it bear with me here I’m going to go to the blur tool this is the same thing basically as dodging for this and we have to remember this when we do the physical print let’s go to the blur and let’s say Gaussian blur and blur this up quite a bit here and yeah there we go there we go big blur now what I’m going to do is change this layer behavior from normal to soft light and there we have a brighter flower and I may bring that down a little bit so there’s on and off and you can see that we did in fact brighten that up this would have been the equivalent of dodging or keeping light from hitting a print the other thing that’s bothering me about this composition and this is my mistake is I used a piece of art board for the white background and I somehow got this black shape down in here it doesn’t completely bother me I don’t think it disturbs the image is just a little on its own so the other thing you might consider doing is something like this let’s go ahead and

I’m going to grab the lasso tool we’re going to do something kind of freeform here bear with me here we’re going to kind of select the area in the middle here this would be the equivalent of just burning in these sides now what I’m going to do is go up to the Select menu and I’m going to inverse that selection so it’s going to be opposite of what I actually selected now you can see it’s these sides here let’s create another new layer and I’m going to color that in solid black and by hitting command and delete let’s deselect it let’s blur that out as well so let’s go back to the Gaussian blur and there we go so now you can see that it’s just doing a shot of that and then I will change the layer behavior from normal to soft light once again and then let’s style this way back on the opacity and you’re going to start to see here that we are more or less creating a vignette but it helps balance out this thing I don’t like down here so we’ll remember that when we’re actually working on this that we may end up doing some some boxing into the shadows and this is better it’s not perfect I’m actually one a crop to get some more of that out because it is an awfully heavy vignette but it doesn’t bother me too much I think it kind of works on my pulley opacity back just a little more but essentially what we’re doing is framing that in a little further and not worrying about this just being a distraction out there on its own and at this point I’m starting to feel better about this image I might want to continue to tweak it just a little more but as you can see in both of these examples that I didn’t do anything that was just heavy Photoshop where I’m starting to paint all the sudden or clone or change the composition and like I said this is a personal opinion other people think differently on this and it’s okay it doesn’t make anyone write wrong it’s just my style personally is to let the image speak for itself and breathe and just be beautiful on its own again we will compare this with the darker print I’m not sure just because this ended up being experimental I messed the roll of film up because I have a setting wrong on the camera but this other image is closer to what I had in mind and you can see how much easier this was to achieve too because I think I was working from you know having being ready to do specific things to this image and I knew how to get it and that’s based on experience one final note on these that I want to share with you too is that in the next episode we’re going to be dealing with doing darkroom equivalents of these and just so we have a point of reference where we can compare a little bit and talk about them I’m going to have these printed and you can certainly do this on an inkjet printer if you want I’m actually going to and I’ll show you how to do this I’m going to use Adorama’s service which is adoramapix komm they’re actually a very great service and I’ve done stuff through them before and they generally look really good if you go to photo prints at the top I’m going to show you exactly what it is I’m going to order here and I’m gonna go ahead and order this all have those in the next episode down at the bottom there’s prices here’s Kodak professional glossy Kodak professional lustre and professional metallic metallic is a very special use kind of deal and it’s not it’s it’s outside the scope of this comparison we’re doing here glossy personally I just don’t care for I don’t like the light to reflect off of the surface of the image it doesn’t do much for me so I’m going to stick here with professional luster in the middle and we’re going to do just two 8 by 10 prints a dollar 49 H that’s pretty reasonable I think the prices are very reasonable a lot of things they have an FTP site once you create your account you can upload your images and then select what you want printed the quantity and all that anyway just to let you know that’s what I’m going to do if you have an inkjet print you obviously have more choices in paper have talked about those in episodes past and that’s the optimal way to go but I just want to let you know for all intents and purposes that’s what I will be doing with these now the other thing I want to talk about real quick before we finish up here is I want to talk about prepping these just a little bit for printing and what sizes dimensions because that becomes confusing to people what you want to do is make sure you understand the service that you’re using and what they will deal with or if you’re using your own printer what it will deal with in Adorama’s case I know that there are GB images in fact they are srgb in the end but it’s not something to worry about it just going to save them full sizes of going to the web with them and that’s what they’re going to be working with the other thing you want to be able to do is under image let’s go to image size and we’re going to be dealing with image size amount so what you can see here is actually if I were just to print this right now it is optimized to do a two inch by two inch image it is optimized to do a two inch by two inch image at 2,400 pixels per inch because I was the size of the negative that I scanned so I’m gonna change this around a little bit to get it to fit onto an 8 by 10 now obviously this is a square both of these are and so I just want it it’s going to be the shorter of the two dimensions on 8 by 10 it’ll sit in the middle and I can trim it or frame it however I want what I’m gonna do is turn resample image off and what I’m going to do is I’m going to change the resolution down to 300 and you can see right there that what happened is now I have a 17 by 18 inch image it’s it’s I can go pretty large with this scan is what I’m saying and just to give you a little note here when you are printing generally speaking

300 is optimal 300 pixels per inch okay you can get away with 150 if you’re using a high quality enough printer any less than that and it starts to degrade and there are people who will argue with me on that and I would not go 150 I mean go 600 if you can you want the maximum live resolution just know that 150 is the lowest you can possibly deal with so if you’re not able to get the right size out of this you need to actually go in and resample or actually rescan your image don’t resample it doesn’t work rescan the image at a higher higher pixel depth anyway so what I’m going to do here is for the width the height I’m going to change the largest one of these two once just say 7.5 because it’s an 8 by 10 image but there will be a little bit of a border on that my resolutions coming out 725 point seven three three remember I you have resample image off let’s go ahead and say okay and I’m done I’m ready to save this out and get it ready for print anyway I’m going to go ahead and print these and in the next step so we’ll have those when they come back okay so this has been part one in this series of process of taking an image and working with it into getting a final print we talked about the digital side of things and we’ve talked briefly about contact sheets and how that works and what we’re going to do in the next show is we’re going to dig a little deeper and we’re going to hit the enlarger and we’re going to talk about what kinds of options you have in terms of burning and dodging and working with a print now we have remember two prints that we’re dealing with or two negatives that we’re dealing with one of these is can be fairly easy to work with because it was shot correctly and how I intended the other one was not so it’ll be interesting to see how how difficult that becomes to actually get something that’s usable in the final image so anyway I know I’ve referred back to a lot of older episodes here from time to time and we will continue to do that because I don’t want to bog down with talking about developing film when working on a print and so I will keep links to other shows that we’ve done on these so if you’re interested in filling gaps in knowledge potentially on that you can check them out so you can find the show notes and all our previous episodes on our website which is the art photography TV and that’s about it for today we will see you next time so thank you once again for watching and catch you in the next show